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Explaining to communities how construction is continuing safely – in a way that is “Covid-19 Secure” – has become an extra challenge for site teams.

On top of adapting operations to ensure safety and grappling with supply chains, harnessing a two-way dialogue with communities and other stakeholders has become even more important than it was.

Risks

A lack of, or poor, communications cause problems at the best of times. With construction rightly under greater scrutiny, the risk to site operations and reputations is now substantial. Failing to pre-empt concerns or responding to worries insensitively can trigger costly delays. Concerns become complaints that spread across communities, run wild on social media and are escalated to local authorities, the local press and HSE.

The next thing you know you’re in protracted negotiations with a local authority on operating practices and working hours.

In addition, the risk to reputations is something that can often come back to bite when that application for what would’ve been a simple condition amendment or for a new nearby site is submitted.

Similarly, we live in an age where the internet creates a record of controversies. Unresolved problems during construction risk sitting at the top of Google when prospective customers are researching their new homes.

Everybody needs good neighbours

As we advise and support clients who are reopening sites and continuing construction, it is clear that going the extra mile is welcomed by local communities. There is real nervousness from the concerned and worried public which can be quelled with some very simple, flexible and agile engagement and communication. 

Explaining why continuing construction is important as well as how it will be done safely, speaking to the right people at the right time and resourcing the appropriate channels to deal with questions and concerns are all important steps.

No one knows what the coming months will hold. We do know that speaking and listening to the communities in which we operate will give sites an increased resilience, avoiding unnecessary delays caused by misunderstandings in local communities and protecting long term reputations.

How we can help?

Social are communications and engagement experts specialising in the built environment.

Complementing our wider communications services, we’ve worked with developers and contractors across the UK, including Mactaggart & Mickel, One Manchester and United Living, to offer tailored construction communications focused support:

  • Devising appropriate messaging that communicates why activity is important and how it is happening safely
  • Proactive engagement with communities through update letters and newsletters delivered to neighbours and regular email updates to pre-empt questions and concerns
  • Key ad-hoc stakeholder engagement with local politicians, local schools, businesses and others
  • Virtual community liaison meetings, continuing to comply with expectations or to create new channels for engagements
  • Reactive engagement through dedicated freephone lines and email addresses to reduce the burden on site managers
  • Construction focused project websites and social media channels to create an online hub for construction information, separate from marketing and sales focused activity
  • Local proactive and reactive media management to help ensure fair reporting
  • Crisis communications including agreeing protocols and supporting responses
  • Supporting Considerate Constructors Scheme

To find out more about how we can help please email Freddie Palmer: freddie.palmer@social.co.uk